Ries: Horn Sonata in F; Steup: Horn Sonata in E flat; Starke: Adagio and Rondo; Thürner: Grande Sonate in E
Anneke Scott (horn), Steven Devine (fortepiano)
Resonus RES 10267 77:51 mins
Anneke Scott is the leading virtuoso on the natural horn. Here, with Steven Devine, she performs four works by close contemporaries of Beethoven which offer an interesting journey down a music history byway and allow her to help dispel myths about the instrument’s supposedly limited repertoire. Though not on this recording, Beethoven’s Sonata in F major for Horn and Piano, Op. 17 is the fons et origo of everything here. It was composed in 1800 for the horn virtuoso Giovanni Punto, then much better known than Beethoven, and, as Ferdinand Ries later recounted it, was written from start to finish on the eve of its premiere.
Ries is best known to us now as Beethoven’s secretary and copyist, but he was a noted cellist, pianist and composer who produced his own answer to Beethoven’s Op. 17 in the form of his Grande Sonata in F major, Op 34. As its introduction gravely unfolds, this really feels like a continuation of a conversation started by Beethoven; the piano part is gently virtuosic, and the ‘Rondo’ is boldly exploratory in Beethovenian style.
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Scott suggests that Eugen Thürner’s Grande Sonate in E major, Op. 29 may have been continuing the conversation where Ries had left off one year before. Its textures have charm, and its Largo has poise and grace. Friedrich Starke, meanwhile, was a regular dining partner of Beethoven, as well as having had the honour of playing fourth horn in the premiere of Fidelio; his Adagio is broodingly atmospheric, and his ‘Rondo’ is full of flamboyant moments which these excellent players bring off with panache. Hendrik Steup’s Op. 11 contains explicit references to Beethoven’s Horn Sonata, and is graceful throughout.